Where faith meets art

Leila Aboulela

Salaam Dear Leila

an agony aunt column

Overtly Lit is delighted to have author Leila Aboulela as our first ever agony aunt.

Leila is the author of The Translator, Minaret, Lyrics Alley, The Kindness of Enemies, Elsewhere, Home and Bird Summons. Her work has received critical acclaim for for its distinctive exploration of identity, migration and Islamic spirituality.

Leila's fiction is a wonderful place to find meaningful representation of faith and spirituality and she is now here to share advice with our readers.

We welcome questions from people of all faiths or none. We encourage you to ask about what matters most to you, including general life problems. Think about issues that could benefit from advice which takes your faith into account as Leila will answer your questions with a faith-centric approach.

As Leila is a Muslim herself, if she is answering the question of another Muslim, she may incorporate something relating to Islam in her answer but we want to reiterate that questions from all faiths or none are welcome.

Please note, any advice Leila gives is not designed to be religious guidance and does not take the place of a scholar of religion. It is merely that - advice from one person of faith to another.

We look forward to your questions!

Read the former questions and Leila's answers in her agony aunt column

Salaam Dear Leila

In the last year or so I’ve started taking writing more seriously and alhamdulilah I’ve had some small but meaningful achievements. As a mother of a young child, I plan carefully to set time aside for my writing. Sometimes I feel selfish for doing so. Writing is just for me. I’m aware it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever be able to make a steady income out of it, however small, and therefore contribute financially through writing. Sometimes I feel like I should stop writing, that it’s a waste of time because there’s no benefit to anyone. But then there are times when a reader will tell me something they loved or related to in something I wrote and that makes it all worthwhile for me. Am I selfish for prioritising my writing, should I spend the time on something more worthwhile if I can’t make a career out of it?


Read the former questions and Leila's answers in her agony aunt column

Salaam Dear Leila

I find it hard to say no to people when they ask for my help with their creative projects, even when I know I’ll be stretching myself. If I can be helpful to other people then I want to be so and I believe that Allah helps those who helps others. But there are times when I’ve said yes to too many things and I overwhelm myself and in order to meet all the commitments I’ve made, I end up neglecting my own creative projects.

Part of why I don’t want to say no to people is that I don’t want to offend anyone or for them to feel like they couldn’t ask me again in the future and I also don’t want to be left with feelings of guilt. How can I go about saying no when I need to?